An Aquaponics System Can Provide Sustainable Food
An Aquaponics system teaches sustainable food production in a controlled water environment. The name is derived from Aquaculture (the growth of aquatic animals) and Hydroponics (the cultivation of aquatic plants). By marrying these two systems together a symbiotic relationship is formed where each system, provides, sustains and ultimately protects the other. This relatively modern system allows the efficient use and reuse of water, stimulating organic growth in both fish and plants.
Aquaponics has its roots in China and South East Asia, where traditional farming methods found a way of doubling up on food production in the rice paddy fields. The rice was grown in flooded terraces, while at the same time, fish were introduced into the terraced pools, so that a second and more importantly, high protein food source, was produced. The plants would assimilate the effluent ammonia waste from the fish and use this form of nutrient to grow, thereby removing the nitrates from the water and reducing the toxicity, which is harmful to fish in certain concentrations. This cleansed water then enabled the fish to grow without fear of disease or death.
Fast forward to the present with our increasing awareness in the world of the need for conservation and getting more from our dwindling land resources and Aquaponics appears to offer some answers.
Aquaponics uses a fraction of the water which is currently used in irrigation for traditional vegetable farming, possibly as low as 2%.
Aquaponics systems allows for much smaller plots, reducing land requirements, costs and associated land clearances for production areas.
Aquaponics can be set up on a large or small scale, backyard or commercial premises and even in arid areas.
So how do the two systems link together?
Aquaculture raises edible sea animals like crayfish and prawns and fish such as Tilapia in freshwater tanks. Hydroponic systems cultivate green leaf vegetables and plants across a wide range including tomatoes, peppers, Basil and other herbs. Fish produce waste in solid form, defecation and uneaten food, which emits ammonia. If not removed, this can increase the toxicity of the water and harm the fish.
The plants grown in hydroponic systems require a food source and can absorb the ammonia from the fish waste either directly or more efficiently by the process of bacterial plants. These bacteria form a biofilm, which can transform the ammonia into nitrates, which are then absorbed by the plants during a process known as nitrification. Saltwater can be used in the aquaponics system, but obviously this depends on the tolerance of the species of fish and plant.
By combining the systems via this biofilter, excess waste is removed and converted into food for plants, which in turn purify the water, which is then fed back to the fish tanks as cleansed water via a sump. The biofilter protects the two systems from unrestricted access, so that there is no direct link between
Aquaponics systems maintain the water levels and only need topping up to replace natural evaporation, plant absorption/transpiration and the loss due to rainfall overflow. The oxygen and nutrient levels are maintained by the symbiosis between fish and plant and this system even has possibilities for reusing household sewage waste water.
In short, all you need to set up your own Aquaponics system is: water, fish food and power for the equipment. We will take a look at further details including plans on this website.